EU defence ministers decided at their meeting on 27 September to send an EU force into Chad and the Central African Republic to help protect civilians from violence in neighbouring Darfur.
The French will provide the biggest contingent (1,500 soldiers) and will also lead the mission. “We’ve gathered between 2,000 and 2,500 EU troops (of the 4,000 needed to be fully operational) and more countries are still preparing their contributions,” an EU official close to French Defence Minister Hervé Morin said after the meeting. The minister’s decision followed the UN Security Council’s authorisation of an EU force on 25 September.
Although no breakdown of the troop commitments was provided at the defence minister’s meeting, with the mission still requiring final approval from all 27 EU governments, “Chad is an operation that will take place,” the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana stated.
The deployment is seen as a test of for the EU’s external security policy, but promises of troops and equipment have come in slowly. According to diplomats familiar with the two-day talks in Portugal, so far only Ireland, Sweden, Poland and Belgium have made troops available, as well as the French.
Germany said it would provide only political support, Vienna was willing to send military engineers, and Spain promised only logistical help.
German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung said Darfur was “a major catastrophe”, but added that this is will be “a very risky mission.”
As if to further emphasise this statement, just two days later an attack by the rebellious Sudanese Liberation Army left ten African Union (AU) soldiers dead. According to UN information, this was the heaviest attack since the AU mission started three years ago.
In addition to the military protection mission, which was agreed upon by the defence minister’s council, the Commission will contribute more than €50 million to a joint UN and EU initiative in Eastern Chad and the North East of the Central African Republic, aimed at three key areas:
- Humanitarian aid;
- Support for the establishment of a police mission, which will have the task of assisting in protecting the refugee camps near the Darfur border and creating secure conditions for the return of displaced persons; and;
- Reintegration and rehabilitation of the refugees.